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Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 3. 1969.

Student guinea-pigs for anti-drink pill

Student guinea-pigs for anti-drink pill

Student volunteers may soon be getting drunk in the cause of scientific research.

A research worker at Victoria University believes he has found a way to combat the new compulsory bloodtesting for suspected intoxicated motorists.

Mr Robert W. Wellsford told Salient this week that he has almost completed work on a pill to be taken after drinking, which will greatly reduce the level of alcohol in the blood.

He hopes it will be ready for full testing in the next few weeks.

Mr Wellsford said he had discovered the principle behind the chemical composition of the pill during research last August into the effects of alcohol on the hearts and bloodstreams of rats, and its possible contribution to heart attacks.

But he said he could not make his discoveries public until he had completed negotiations with a large American chemical and pharmaceutical firm operating in New Zealand.

The same project is said to be under investigation in America and Germany, but Mr Wellsford said the American firm had told him none of the other researchers had reached his advanced stage.

He told Salient that his new formula would give almost 100% success in reducing blood alcohol by as much as 63%, depending on the body-weight of the subject.

Asked to comment on the legal implications of the development Mr J. G. Barber of Victoria's Law Faculty declined to give any positive statement.

He said, however, that if it worked as Mr Wellsford claimed, it would not appear to involve an infringement of the blood-testing law that is soon to come into operation.

"Although the taking of this pill would be an attempt to avoid the law, it would not be a contravention of that law as it stands at present." he said.

"The law lays down that drivers may not drive a motor vehicle with more than a set percentage of alcohol in their blood. It doesn't lay down that he may not drive after taking a certain quantity of alcohol."

A General Practitioner Dr T. A. Shunter, of Wellington, said that doctors would probably oppose the introduction of such a pill, as its only purpose appeared to be to defeat the law.

"The new pill, as described at this stage, would only reduce the blood alcohol," he said.

"It would in no way reduce the actual degree of intoxication, and would therefore make the driver no more capable of driving the car.

"It would just make it easier for him to drive when drunk and still avoid breaking the law and making himself liable for punishment."

A spokesman for the legal division of the Ministry of Transport, Mr I. L. V. Atchison, said that his department had contacted Mr Wellsford privately, and hoped for some positive response from him in the near future.

Mr Wellsford told Salient however that he would not discontinue work on the pill, no matter what government pressure was brought to bear.

He said that a full press statement, probably from the American company with whom he is negotiating, would be released on his behalf when the pill had been perfected and prepared for full testing, probably before the end of the month.

Mr Wellsford said that later in the month a large number of volunteers, possibly students, would be recruited to see if the new pill would work after large quantities of alcohol had been drunk.